To some, the bill “Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act” may seem like a significant request, but Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) told host Chip Flory on AgriTalk that it’s money well spent. On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that authorizes funding for 740 new agricultural inspectors at land, air and sea ports to prevent African swine fever (ASF) and other foreign animal diseases from entering the U.S. The Senate approved an identical version of the bill in October 2019.
“If you really think about the damage that African swine fever could cause our country, which we've obviously seen in Asia, it is first and foremost money well spent. And, it’s absolutely necessary to ensure that we don't have another issue that affects our agricultural community,” Axne said.
Not only does the bill authorize U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) every fiscal year to hire, train and assign 240 new agricultural specialists until the country reaches the total number of specialists needed to help protect our country, but it also allows CBP to hire, train and assign support staff to assist the specialists and specified levels of agricultural canine teams as well.
“It really ups the numbers of folks who are protecting our borders and making sure that we are protecting our food and agriculture items that are coming into this country and, of course, protecting what we produce in this country,” Axne said. “I'm thrilled that this just passed. And that we are going to move this agenda forward to protect our agricultural community in a time where it's very much needed.”
Prevention is Our Best Defense
It’s certainly not time to be complacent when it comes to ASF, Flory said. The deadly virus that impacts both domestic and wild pigs continues to jump borders in Asia and border in Europe. With no cure or vaccine, prevention is the only option to protect U.S. pork producers.
“You don't let the disease in and then try to catch up to it. You just flat out prevent it,” Flory said.
Although the U.S. has been successful in keeping it out so far, it’s not time to relax. He is concerned about the wild hog population in the southern part of the country.
“Those wild hogs are how it's spreading in Europe and we've got a big problem in the South, which means that we're vulnerable down there,” he added.
Getting the bill passed with a unanimous voice vote is a step in the right direction. The bill is now on its way to President Donald Trump’s desk to be signed.
“Prevention is literally the only option that we have right now,” Axne said. “And this is not just for Iowa, of course, but it's very important for Iowa with our role in pork production, but certainly for other states with pork production as well.”
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